Fiction | Master Class

Fiction Master Class: How to Turn Real Life into Fiction

What writer hasn't grappled with that old adage, "write what you know?" Even the most fantastical fiction writers often find inspiration in lived experience. But no matter how much is drawn from worlds we know, successful fiction must always have a greater alliance to the truth of the story than to the truth of our lives. In this master class led by bestselling novelist J. Courtney Sullivan, we will attempt to figure out the place of real life in fiction and develop practical strategies for writing the familiar while also allowing for our imaginations to go beyond our own experience. We will discuss methods for incorporating research into fiction to make it more realistic, and ways of being alert to the stories that we can draw from our lives. 

Writers will leave invigorated and having generated plenty of in-class writing, as well as with a clearer sense of what it means to write what you know.

J. Courtney Sullivan

J. Courtney Sullivan is the author of the New York Times bestselling novels Saints for All Occasions, Commencement, Maine and The Engagements. Courtney’s writing has also appeared in The New York Times Book Review, The Chicago Tribune, New York magazine, Elle, Glamour, Allure, Real Simple, and O: The Oprah Magazine, among many others. She is a co-editor, with Courtney Martin, of the essay anthology Click: When We Knew We Were Feminists. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Testimonials

“Fabulous and smart.”

Emma Straub THE NEW YORK TIMES

“Moving… Eloquently testifies to the durability of the fabric of family… Touched with… warmth, kindness and gentle wisdom.”

Sam Sacks WALL STREET JOURNAL

“Carefully plotted... Sullivan succeeds in creating a believably complicated, clannish Irish-American family… Engrossing.”

REDBOOK

“Carefully plotted... Sullivan succeeds in creating a believably complicated, clannish Irish-American family… Engrossing.”

Suzanne Berne THE NEW YORK TIMES

“An engrossing family drama… Sullivan’s profound understanding of her characters and the Irish-Catholic culture that defines them illuminates every scene.”

Kim Hubbard PEOPLE MAGAZINE

“This year’s best book about family… Elegant… Captivating… Deft and insightful… A quiet masterpiece…impressive. SAINTS FOR ALL OCCASIONS is so unassuming that its artistry looks practically invisible. In a simple style that never commits a flutter of extravagance, Sullivan draws us into the lives of the Raffertys, and in the rare miracle of fiction makes us care about them like they were our own family.”

Ron Charles THE WASHINGTON POST

“A blockbuster…An engrossing family drama with feisty humor and transformative tough love.”

ELLE

“I hope to read another novel as strong and wise and beautiful and heartbreaking as J. Courtney Sullivan’s SAINTS FOR ALL OCCASIONS this year, but I'm not sure I will.”

Richard Russo